Apr 272012

It’s been a while since I posted an actual blog post rather than a liveblog and I thought it might be useful to summarise some interesting new social media news that has emerged over the last few weeks. It’s in no particular order but should hopefully be of interest.

Friends Reunited re-launches. One of the very first social networks has made a very unlikely comeback recently. Friends Reunited was the Facebook of it’s day (around 2001-3) encouraging old school friends to connect and post messages on each others walls. It had a real following in the UK but it didn’t develop fast enough and when it was sold from it’s private owners to ITV it really went into decline. However with the visual appeal of Tumblr, Pinterest and HistoryPin in mind and the massive appeal of family history as a new focus the site has relaunched in a new visual nostalgic style. Those used to frequenting Mum’s Comfort Food (formerly Monster Mash) in Edinburgh will instantly be used to the look and feel which is a bit like iPlayer in I Love the 1980s mode. And a fascinating footnote: Freindsreunited are manually retrieving login details for users who can no longer remember their logins, email addresses, passwords etc. It’s notable only because it’s rare a site is around so long it justifies doing that. Although from my first login there it looks like the masses have not returned to Friendsreunited (yet) despite the press coverage.

HistoryPin adds lots of new features! Chief amongst these are Channels which allow significant customisation and aggregation of contributions. A lovely idea for individuals, local history groups etc. We were lucky enough to have Rebekkah from HistoryPin along at a JISC GECO workshop on Geospatial in the Cultural Heritage Domain last month – you see the notes from her talk – which included sneak previews of the new Channels – over on the GECO LiveBlog for the event.

Facebook launches Timeline for Pages. Anyone with a Facebook page will know by now that the old style pages rolled over to the new style Timeline on 31st March 2012. The new look and feel will be very familiar to anyone looking at friends profiles over the last few months (personal profiles having rolled over around January).  Whilst the responses to personal timelines seems to have been quite mixed I think the new format work rather well for Pages and I haven’t seen much in the way of criticism – although inevitably looking around for familiar elements takes a wee bit of getting used to.

One of the most fun parts of the new format Facebook pages is the ability to add “Covers” – large images (851px by 315px – very similar to many WordPress theme banner sizes) which have presumably been labelled as “Covers” to appeal both to those who create elaborate scrapbooks and photo albums as well as those who wish they’d been in a rock band. We’ve now got Covers in place for all of our Facebook pages – why not take a look at the EDINA AddressingHistory Page and Digimap Page both of which use nice geospatial images:

Digimap's Facebook Page showing the new Timeline.

We actually try to keep a collection of images of events, services, etc. for just these sorts of times. A number of us at EDINA are pretty decent photographers and tend to take Digital SLRs to events anyway so we make a concious effort to capture our own high resolution images that are specific to us and our work so that when it comes to sharing images, illustrating blog posts or reports, etc. we have suitable images to hand. For AddressingHistory and JISC GECO, both of which were both very much about engaging the community and encouraging them to blog we’ve found Flickr accounts really useful – sharing images of materials and events lets others out on the web create more engaging posts and talk about our projects. Talking of images…

Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion. Old news now but still worth noting. The story has mainly been reported from a “is this the new dot com bubble” perspective which is hardly surprising as the purchase does value a free iPhone app at more than the value of subscription-based New York Times. However looking at this a bit more pragmatically it’s not quite such a daft purchase. Facebook has paid “cash and shares” and with the Facebook IPO coming up very soon it’s possible those shares are a big part of the payment and being valued highly. More importantly Instagram has a lot of the design and hipster chic that Facebook lacks, useful in itself, and will bring with it a user base and their photos – since images are, in my experience, some of the most productive sources of interaction on Facebook, that’s also significant. Instagram’s main function is to make fairly mediocre phone images look quirky, nostalgic, and tangible in a hard to explain sort of way. Adding that functionality to the photo sharing and storing aspects of Facebook seems like a good move as more of us move to experiencing the site almost exclusively on smartphones or tablets. On a sort of related note a very good recent(ish) Planet Money podcast talked about the longtail of the app economy with the founder of Instapaper.

Pinterest sees rapid growth and claims 97% of fans are female (see piece in Forbes and stats on TechCrunch). If Pininterest has passed you by so far you may be more than a little surprised at the number of new users it’s attracted in a very short time. The idea is very simple and rather familiar if you’re used to using Tumblr, the Flipboard iPad app, the new(ish) Delicious Stacks, Flickr Galleries, Storify, and any number of more obscure Web2.0 sites.  Pinterest is essentially a virtual pinboard for images – you can also add short comments and share those links/images. It’s a very basic idea but engaging because it is so visual, easy to use, and the interface is based on big buttons, easy browsing etc.  Like many predecessors it’s a custom magazine for the web but, unlike many of those, it also has a big user community. And for reference websites with no “pinnable” images cannot be pinned/saved/shared so it’s a great reminder to always include a good image on your webpresences – particularly if you can share something eyecatching!

Citizen Olympics Reporting. Two recent and exciting citizen reporting initiatives have been kicked off recently. The first and larger is #media2012, a reporting network for the Olympics. They held a recent kick off meeting which you can read about here. There is also an associated project to provide crowdsourced blog coverage of the Scottish arm of the torch relay which goes by the name CitizenRelay. Read more about getting involved here.

And finally… EDINA has a new LinkedIn page! If you head over there you can start following us for updates and news. And if you are a current or former staffer here do update your profile to create a connection back to the page. We’ve actually been planning to create a LinkedIn page for a while so it’s really good to see it live!

And even more finally… Our Will’s World project (#willdiscover) has launched and is contributing data for this year’s Culture Hack Scotland. The data is here in case you’re interested but there will be much more on that to follow…


Nov 172011
Image of Google Buzz

As you may have noticed by now Google Buzz the useful but disastrously deployed Google social stream tool that used to live within the Googlemail interface (and within Google Profiles) is no more.  This is part of a widespread series of consolidations Google have been making to their social media and collaboration tools (as well as the closure of Google Labs), the most notable of which has been their controversial rebrand of services to a new sharp/Google+ inspired look and feel.

Google Buzz was built on the Friendfeed notion of the value of social activity streams – you could feed your blog, tweets, images etc. in automatically and then like or comment on others’ activity. That concept now tends to go by the name “lifestreaming” as that seems to capture the idea nicely though of course it is only a small portion of “life” that is streamed in such tools.

Image of FriendFeed

FriendFeed profile view

The benefit of Google Buzz, Friendfeed and similar systems is that you can have a profile that automatically updates with key content and can then opt in to further interactivity – discussions with friends and contacts, follow up messages etc. However the downside to these tools is that you are not driven to login regularly, to engage in more discussion (rather than one way narrowcasting or broadcasting of content) and you may not use that site as your primary access to any of your contacts updates. As the social networking wars hot up between Google+ and Facebook that hands off updating is losing appeal to social media site operators – anyone accessing a site through a third party app or automatically updating a site via RSS does not need to login, look at advertising on the site, and may not be as likely to stay on site for a long time. It was interesting that Google+ launched as a site that wants you to post updates directly. Just a short while later Facebook have just dropped one of their longer standing features – the Facebook Notes importer driven, presumably, by similar motivations.

The loss of Facebook Notes importing will be particularly noticable for Page administrators who are used to being able to generate automatically updated content through blog posts or Twitter feeds. Individuals may not login and engage if they can import all their updates automatically but organisations are very different beasts: blogs tend to be updated more frequently, activity tends to be checked in a different and more proactive way than personal comments and the importer is used far more widely because of this. It will be interesting to see how page owners adapt to the change – we’ll certainly be switching tack for a few of our Facebook pages here to accommodate the change although the timing for this is good as Google+ pages have just launched so it is likely that we can apply similar updating process to both spaces at least in the short term.

However the loss of automatic updates  does not mean the lifestream (a term I first came across via the WordPress plugin of the same name) is dead. Mobile social media usage is driving more aggregation – who wants to open 5 apps every time one looks at their phone – with tools like AOL’s Lifestream App, Apples iOS Notifications Centre, and indeed the sorts of social bookmarking-like functionality of Facebook’s own social newspaper reading apps. Blogs too seem likely to hold strong in light of the Facebook Notes changes/wider importing restrictions – some will surely switch to using Notes as a blog (which many users already do), many others will find email subscription a strong alternative and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the linkage between Google+ and Google Reader strengthening (dealing with RSS without a simple UI remains a little too techie for many blog readers).

Image of the Developer Preview of Facebook Timeline

Developer Preview of Facebook Timeline

Also in this space Facebook have launched Timeline – a way to add a narrative arc to your shared materials that reflects a more curated lifestream approach – or perhaps a more visual and social version of blogging. It will be interesting to see how that takes off as it is simultaneously quite appealing and clearly an effort to ensure lock-in to Facebook through investment of time, energy and emotional memory. As talk of the “happy cloud” and reputation management online become more foregrounded it will be particularly interesting to see how users edit their “private activity log” and deal with  editing former partners, friends, colleagues etc. in/out of their personal life stories.

Related Links

 November 17, 2011  Posted by at 1:38 pm Social Media News & Resources Tagged with: , , ,  8 Responses »
May 252011

As a keen social media user/evangelist I tend to have a very liberal view of my personal data. I register for sites all the time and there is therefore an awful lot of information out on the web about me. But at Internet World last week (fuller blog post on that to follow) I found myself feeling more cautious than usual about my data when I was issued a badge with a barcode on the front:

Image of the front of the Internet World 2011 conference badge

Image of the back of the Internet World 2011 conference badge

The badge, it transpired, could be used by any exhibitor to quickly grab personal data.  The terms (just visible on that reverse image) were printed on the badge and, on some level, I suppose this trade of data for information was an expected part of attending the event for free. It was still a slight surprise to find a scanner greeting me at every stand…

All of the exhibitors I encountered asked before swiping my badge (though they didn’t explain their data protection policy and I didn’t think to ask) and there were some definite advantages – I didn’t have to write down my details endlessly making for much quicker exchanges of information. But there were some less optional encounters – gaining access to any talk at the event required you to show your badge for scanning – and these details could then also be relayed to the speaker. Data Protection wise you are still “agreeing” to share your data but by the time you have queued for half an hour you are pretty unlikely to say no.

Image of Jelly Beans

Jelly beans by Mark Hillary (markhilary on Flickr)

“Schwag” – free stuff branded with logos and product info and handed out by exhibitors – is always a big part of these sorts of expos and are always used as an incentive to share data. I heard one attendee behind me in the queue excitedly showing off the free jelly belly beans being handed out by an exhibitor. Whenhis colleagues asked him where he’d gotten them he replied “oh they were free but I just had to get my badge scanned”. That seemed like a pretty good deal for the exhibitor to me – for a few pence they capture the full contact details and job title of your target market. That’s not to say that I didn’t let my own badge get scanned but I tried to only do so where I had genuine interest in being on the relevant company’s mailing list – jelly beans, free ice cream even, were not enticements enough on their own.

Reputation (personal and brand)

On an interesting and sort of related note… Nature recently published a poll and article on the importance of reputation and online image to researchers. Well worth a look (as are the survey results) for anyone thinking about doing a little spring cleaning of their online profiles.

By contrast… Facebook has enabled Brand Tagging (more info in this Mashable article). This allows any Facebook user to tag a brand in a photo. Why would anyone do this? Well there are two main reasons: people want to share pictures of themselves enjoying a branded product (maybe to show off, maybe to name check a song, maybe just because they really love the idea of being associated with a brand) particularly if that is fed into the Facebook page for that brand (witness, for instance, the already well populated “Photos and Videos of…” section of the Coca Cola Photos page) ; secondly this does enable new types of competitions to take place (further evolving the “in 20 words or less explain why x is your favourite brand of y” type contest).

There is, of course a third and more subversive reason for tagging an image with your favourite brand though: if Coca Cola has 27 million fans (as it currently does) and you want to sell or promote or share something with lots of people quickly you could do far worse than post your image with an incorrect brand tag. I suspect the time involved in brands removing tags over the first few months of trialling the tags will be significant…